Archive | September, 2018

Orange Shirt Day 2018

30 Sep

 

As a teacher, September is a time that is very busy for me as I begin to get ready for the upcoming school year. September is filled with change – from new classes to teach, and new students to meet, clubs to plan for and events to run. It can be very stressful for me, but it is also a very exciting time as I, and I hope the students, begin to get back into the swing of the school year. Today, September 30th, I am taking time to reflect and remember that going back to school has not always been an exciting time for many members of our society – going back, or beginning to attend, a residential school would have had a significantly different feeling.

September 30th is recognized as Orange Shirt Day, and it honours the story of Phyllis Webstad. If you have not listened to Phyllis’ story, I encourage you to listen below.

The voice of the First Nations people in Canada has been long silenced. I am very fortunate to work in a school where I am able to have discussions on reconciliation with some of the youth in our city. Our school recognized Orange Shirt Day and we participated in a liturgy to focus on the voice of Residential School Students. Last year I had a group of very passionate grade 12 students who began our Treaty 4 group with me and a few colleagues. This year, I was concerned that there would be lack of interest, but our group increased in size. They took the leadership to lead our school and educate them on reconciliation, focusing on how they will use their voices this school year.

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Some of the members for the Vanier Treaty 4 club this year.

Our liturgy took place in the gym, and had a much different tone than other liturgies. A main difference was that we seated the students in a circle on the ground, rather than in our bleachers. Taking time in the day to talk about Reconciliation, to share knowledge, and give voice to students who have been long silenced in our country, was a very powerful moment.

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I wanted to be able to share our presentation as a resource for other teachers, or anyone who is interested in further educating themselves. The slideshow includes resources beyond the document that can even further your education. You can find this slideshow here.

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Some of the staff and students at Vanier who participated in Orange Shirt Day.

The Treaty 4 group made many challenges to the staff and students during the liturgy. They challenged everyone to become familiar with the 94 Calls to Action, and to listen to listen to Read the TRC Report. They also challenged Vanier to fill their social media with facts on Residential Schools, and to share what they have learned with at least one other person. We already had a Twitter begun, which has documented their journey for the past year, but we also began an Instagram page to help spread the awareness further. We challenged the school to use their voice for something important this year, and had them fill orange shirts with how they plan to do this (pictures to come). The last challenge we proposed to the school was to learn 100 days of Cree. We discussed the importance of revitalizing Indigenous languages. Since our presentation focused so strongly on voice, it was very suited to begin this challenge. Taking Cree 100 this semester has also motivated me to help the Treaty 4 group do this, as I myself am focusing on learning Cree this semester. The group made their first video, and will be posting each day to learn a new phrase or word. You can follow our journey on twitter or on instagram!

In closing I would like to quote Justice Murray Sinclair when he stated, “Education has gotten us into this mess, and education will get us out.”

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What is Ownership?

24 Sep

The first assignment for my Cree 100 class is to respond to the Ted Talk given by April Charlo on Indigenous Language Revitalization.

Language is a powerful tool that is a component to the foundation of all cultures. The way we use this language is also very powerful. Language helps us communicate and it helps to pass on knowledge. Taking Cree this semester has been very important to me for numerous reasons. The first reason is that I am a teacher, and as Charlo mentions in her Ted Talk, it is important to revitalize the language so that this knowledge does not become lost to us. The second reason is that my ancestors spoke Cree, and this is a knowledge that has been lost in my family. My aim this semester is to regain some of this knowledge so I may pass it on to my students and family.

Since Aboriginal Traditions put great focus on Oral Tradition, it is obvious that the language holds much more than just literal translation. Last semester I took INDG 228 which was a class on Reconciliation and Indigenous Resurgence in Canada. Through this class I was able to listen to Willie Ermine speak on education and the Cree language. He spoke of how the language was sacred, and that there was knowledge embedded in it. When looking at learning Cree I have kept this in mind.

Resurgence and revitalization of Indigenous language is one step that can begin to repair the broken relationships we have in our country. Whenever we discuss broken relationships, immediately I begin thinking of Treaties. Everything in our society today goes back to the Treaties, and the promises that are not kept within them. When talking about the importance of language, it is easy to make connections to the Treaties. When the Treaties were created and signed, issues were much greater than just a language gap.

In the Ted Talk she speaks about how First Nations traditions did not have a concept of ownership, which in turn affects how we can use the language. It is difficult to understand, then, how Treaties could have been fully understood by both parties at the time of signing. Of course, Treaties are not the first time in Canada that land was now “owned”. The idea of ownership was introduced early with the Doctrine of Discovery, but couldn’t even be comprehended by the First Nations people.

Charlo speaks about how she learned that you cannot own things that are from nature. In order to understand Indigenous languages you also must understand the culture. You can’t merely translate words, because the meaning and knowledge that goes with those words might become lost. When listening to Willie Ermine speak, he discussed how there are knowledge bundles that encompass all things and how they relate to the world around them. There is a deeper richness to the words then, as they become more descriptive.

I am very excited to begin my journey learning Cree. Revitalization of languages, and in turn commitment to learning and understanding the First Nations culture, is an important step in Reconciliation. It is important that we begin teaching and learning these languages in the education system as it has been mandated to be done so by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action.

We call on the federal government to draft new Aboriginal education legislation with the full participation and informed consent of Aboriginal peoples. The new legislation would include a commitment to sufficient funding and would incorporate the following principles:

iv. Protecting the right to Aboriginal languages, including the teaching of Aboriginal languages as credit courses.

Cree 100 – First Blog Post

10 Sep

Hello!

My name is Samantha Douglas and I am a teacher in Moose Jaw. I am currently working on my second degree in Indigenous Studies through the First Nations University. I have been teaching at a high school in Moose Jaw for the past seven years, primarily Math, Native Studies and Catholic Studies. I am excited to begin learning Cree so that I can hopefully pass on this knowledge to the students that I teach!

As a teacher I am involved with the Student Leadership Council, the yearbook, and our school Treaty 4 club. I began taking classes next semester so I am still learning to balance my life as a teacher and as a student.

Outside of school I spend most of my time following sports. I enjoy all sports but specifically enjoy watching the Blue Jays, the San Jose Sharks and the Oakland Raiders. I also enjoy travelling – especially in the summer when I have no teaching responsibilities – and seeing live music as much as possible. I spend most of my time hanging out with my two fur babies, Beau and Luke (they were adopted from the Humane Society… I am not a big Dukes of Hazzard fan, but someone else was!).

Last year I tried to read through the 100 Days of Cree with our Treaty 4 group, and struggled not being able to learn through dialogue with others… so I am very excited to learn with everyone!